The Global Appeal of Latin Music
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN MEXICO
MORE than 400 million people throughout the world speak Spanish. After Mandarin and Hindi, Spanish has more native speakers than any other language. It is not surprising, then, that many people are familiar with the music of Latin America. People the world over have enjoyed listening or dancing to the rhythm of mambo, cha-cha, merengue, or salsa.
Why is this music so popular? Partly because of its lively, happy character. Many Latin Americans like fast, tropical rhythms. Some of these rhythmic beats were introduced to Latin America by West African slaves hundreds of years ago. Admittedly, some non-Latinos find it difficult to appreciate some of the faster tunes with their repetitive drumbeats.
Latin music can also be slow, romantic, and even melancholy. For example, the Latin-American bolero has always been well liked in many countries. The bolero was usually performed by trios and was characterized by its romantic and poetic nature. Very popular during the ’40’s and ’50’s, the bolero has been making a comeback recently in the vocal music of young artists. Mexico’s mariachis, with their attractive suits, big sombreros, and unique music, are also recognized worldwide.
Merengue, Salsa, and Tex-Mex
Merengue and salsa have become very popular in many countries. These rhythms are not new. The merengue originated in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It has been described as ‘incredibly fast, repetitive, infectious, and delicious.’ The Spanish word merengue simply means meringue, the confection made by vigorously beating sugar and egg whites. After watching the vigorous movements of some merengue dancers, an observer can easily see that the name fits.
Within the musical genre of salsa, there are a variety of rhythms, mostly of Cuban and Puerto Rican origins. The Spanish word salsa means “sauce.” According to some, salsa is the result of a musical fusion that took place in New York City, where a mixture of performers from all over the Caribbean mingled. From there it spread throughout the world.
The 1995 assassination of Selena, a Hispanic singer in the United States, made her songs even more popular than when she was alive. She was known as the queen of Tex-Mex music, which has been described as a combination of American country music and norteño (northern Mexican) rhythms. These melodies are sung in English, Spanish, or Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English. This music has become very popular with Latinos in the United States and Latin America.
A Balanced View of Music and Dancing
Music, like many other things that can bring pleasure, is best enjoyed in moderation. (Proverbs 25:16) Christians are selective in their choice of music. The Bible admonishes: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) It is well-known that some songs have irreverent, immoral, or even satanic themes. Latin music is not immune to such corruptive influences.
Some Latin songs feature obscene lyrics. Some contain double entendres, while others are erotic or sexually explicit. Political issues, violence, and rebellion are also prominently featured in a number of songs. For example, the Mexican music known as corrido has long been a favorite among many Latinos. Recently, however, a new type of corrido known as narco corrido is becoming popular. These songs relate the violent stories of drug traffickers, portraying them as heroes. Some mariachi songs also promote offensive themes, glorifying drunkenness, male chauvinism, or nationalism. Similar concerns exist regarding the lyrics in merengue, salsa, and other types of Latin music.
Some who enjoy Latin music do not understand the lyrics. Unwittingly they could find themselves enjoying songs that promote sexual immorality, violence, or even the occult. Those who understand Spanish can become oblivious to the lyrics of questionable songs while dancing to their catchy and happy rhythms. Deep respect for Bible standards, however, should impel us to examine carefully each and every song that is played in our homes and at social gatherings. This will prevent us from listening or dancing to the beat of songs containing lyrics that are offensive to God.
We should also take care not to stumble others by the way we dance. (1 Corinthians 10:23, 24) Christians are careful not to dance with a careless abandon that robs them of their dignity. Neither would they want to engage in deliberately provocative dancing. Married couples display good judgment so that their dancing does not become an inappropriate public display of marital intimacy.
Christian balance also calls for moderation when it comes to the volume of the music played and the duration of social gatherings. Surely, Jehovah’s worshipers can enjoy their choice of music without having to engage in “revelries” that last into the wee hours of the morning and that feature deafeningly loud music. The Bible exhorts: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.”—1 Peter 4:3.
Despite the prevalence of immoral elements in today’s entertainment, there is still a great variety of wholesome music that one can enjoy. Music is a beautiful gift from God, and the Bible says that there is “a time for every matter or purpose under heaven . . . , a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, The Amplified Bible) If you like lively, contagiously happy music, you will surely enjoy listening and dancing to the appealing rhythms of Latin music, doing so in moderation and with Christian balance.—1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 4:8.